Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A few thoughts on 'St. Elmo's Fire,' Age 37 ...


1. Sometimes when we are watching movies, we like to pretend that, for instance, even though his name is Alec Newbury in this movie, Judd Nelson is really still John Bender. The bad ass from "The Breakfast Club" took a left turn in the right air duct and ended up graduating from Georgetown. He auctioned off his steel toed boots, fingerless gloves and Claire's diamond earring in exchange for Politics, leggy saleswomen and, oddly enough, that girl from detention who seemingly no longer eats cereal sandwiches and no longer packs a full purse in case she has "to jam." Except! The weirdo Allison Reynolds is now Leslie Hunter and she applies her own mascara.

It also works when Kevin (played by Andrew McCarthy) finally gets his big chance with his best friend's girl. ("God. It's not like she's a mannequin," Chuck said).

2. I'm too close to this movie to know if it is actually good. I suspect it is not.

3. In 2012, the soundtrack to "St. Elmo's Fire" is unlistenable. This happened sometime between the last time I stood in the bathroom of my childhood home singing "Young and Innocent" into a hairbrush and, well, today.

There is one exception: "Man in Motion" by John Parr. This song is a warmly-lit portrait of a runner pumping her way to the top of the stadium steps, each individual bead of sweat like Christmas lights on her body. And written in a very serious font on the photograph, this little inspirational nugget: I'll be where the eagle's flying higher and higher to the beat of a man in motion. 

Now the rest of the songs sound like the generic pop soundtrack that accompany shopping at JCP. The good news: The album is on Spotify so you can conduct your own science experiment.

4. I love the way Jules clinks when she walks. So many bracelets interfering with each other and maybe even getting mixed in with her huge earrings. I bet she smells like Salon Selectives, Primo and Virginia Slims. She epitomizes what I thought womanhood should look like. If two fingers of vodka tasted as good as she makes it look, I'd be so hammered right now.

5. When this movie was released it was considered a sort of Gen X version of "The Big Chill," minus my mom doing that one weird dance she does with her elbows when someone mentions "The Big Chill." But where "The Big Chill" is more on the sad-sack end of the spectrum, "St. Elmo's Fire" has grown up to become a comedy. Right? Isn't this a comedy? When Kirby, once a total stud wrestler who did something unthinkable involving tape and a nutsack, follows his college crush to a weekend getaway he does this Jack Tripper-esque man-meets-ice move that is pure gold.

Better than that: When Billy and the Breeders play a gig at St. Elmo's Bar. Our resident sax player is going apeshit on the alto in a yellow sleeveless tank top decorated in bats. Man is he sweating. Then he jumps back on stage, claps his hands over his head and calls "Let's Rock!" That took a two handed belly clutch to manage. I believe that he believes he is rocking. But I also believe he is just performing the choreography for "Get in Shape Girl."


6. I'm pretty sure that "Love Song from St. Elmo's Fire" was the theme for one of my high school dances, which is ... huh. I can't imagine how we decorated the gym to accompany that decision. But I'm hoping it was a play on Jules' Hubba Bubba pink apartment with the mural of -- please tell me that's Billy Idol -- on her wall.

7. Kevin is going to be so embarrassed when he gets into his 30s and looks back at all his insufferable "I'm a writer (insert random quote from a philosopher here)" chain-smoking, stalker smile 20s.

8. The climax of this movie has a lot of holes in it. Refresher: Jules is jobless, broke, crazy-eyed and dealing with the repercussions of her terminally ill step monster. So she locks herself in her apartment on a cold day and leaves the window open. She means business. She's going to shiver to death. She refuses to respond to knocks and the old blowtorch-to-the-window trick. Eventually Billy gets inside and gives her the weirdest, least sensical pep talk in the history of uplifting moments. "Blah blah, I'm a fuck up, too, Jules" and then he lights her Aqua Net on fire. It's supposed to be a metaphor, but ... Still, this saves her. I guess.

7. I like considering where these characters are today, now that they are in their mid-50s:

Leslie Hunter (Ally Sheedy) is the national-renowned designer of IKEA floor displays. Corporate level. None of this branch bullshit.
Jules (Demi Moore) will turn her shit around with one final gust of financial assistance from her father. She will rock power suits with shoulder pads and take an evil pleasure in dismissing young colleagues who act just like her. She will take to Whip-Its to unwind.
Billy (Rob Lowe) will become a prolific session musician and an obscure piece of music trivia among serious jazz heads. No fame will come from this and his primary toilet will still be a chamber pot.
Wendy (Mare Winningham) will tirelessly move up the social services ladder until the only way left to honor her is to name a building for her. By never changing her look, she has become the gold standard for bold hipster fashions.
Kirby (Emilio Estevez) will accidentally choke someone to death while giving them the Heimlich manuever at TGI Friday's in Times Square.
Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) will be part of a very public sex scandal involving an inanimate object that isn't even necessarily shaped like a human.
Alec (Judd Nelson) will say something stupid about vaginas on national television during election season.


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